May 09, 2001

Malnutrition Rates Alarmingly High Among Displaced Persons: MSF Urges for General Food Distribution

Luanda, Angola, May 10, 2001 — The international medical aid organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is reporting a sharp increase in malnutrition rates over the past few months in Camacupa municipality of Bié Province in central Angola. The organization urges that additional food distributions be undertaken in the region to avert a further increase in mortality rates.

Populations displaced by the ongoing conflict in Angola are the most affected by the rise in malnutrition. Among the displaced persons living in Camacupa town in Bié Province, MSF has recorded 28% global malnutrition and 11% severe malnutrition. The mortality rate is extremely high, with as many as 3 deaths per day out of 10,000 people (5.4 deaths for children under 5). A nutritional screening carried out among displaced persons in Kuemba by a provincial health delegation reported catastrophic results, with 46% global malnutrition and 19% severe malnutrition. These malnutrition rates are well above emergency thresholds and are the highest seen in Angola in years.

Over the past 6 weeks, MSF has referred more than 400 severely malnourished children from the Camacupa municipality in Bié Province to MSF therapeutic feeding centers in the capital of Kuito. MSF has had to increase the capacity of these therapeutic feeding centers from the initial 300 beneficiaries to 800 beneficiaries to cope with the sharp rise in admissions. MSF is also starting a supplementary feeding program for moderately malnourished children in Camacupa. The initial capacity will be for 500 children but in light of the levels of malnutrition, it is expected to increase rapidly to over 2,000 beneficiaries. In addition, MSF has also observed a serious nutritional problem among the adult population in Camacupa.

"We are really shocked by the level of malnutrition that we are discovering in Camapuca. We are doing as much as we can to reduce mortality through our feeding centers, but this is not enough: people need urgently a general food distribution," said Erwin Van der Borght, MSF head of mission in Angola. "If such a general food distribution does not start very soon, the feeding centers will become rapidly overloaded and they will face many re-admissions."

To succeed in bringing down the mortality rate, MSF efforts must be accompanied by a general food distribution to an estimated affected population of 25,000 to 50,000 persons.

MSF has been working in Angola since 1983, and now works with 80 volunteers and 850 national staff. In November 2000, MSF issued a report, Angola: Behind the Facade of 'Normalization', that detailed and denounced the state of neglect in which the people of Angola have been forced to live since hostilities were renewed in the country at the end of 1998.